Constitutional Reforms in Sri Lanka: What was asked for, What was promised and What is going to be offered?

In Sri Lankan politics, things oftentimes turn topsy-turvy. When people asked for lower prices for basic food items, government lowers prices of luxury cars with absolutely feeble argument that the latter would in turn benefit people. The same thing appears to be unfolding in the sphere of constitutional reforms. In the last Parliamentary Election, one of the key appeals that the United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance made was that the UPFA be given two third seats of the new Parliament so that it can amend the Second Republic Constitution changing the system highly criticized electoral system. People appeared to have accepted the necessity of changing the electoral system that have created intra-party conflict for preferential vote (manapa pore)with heavy campaign expenses on the one hand and the distanciation of elected members from the citizens on the other. As a necessary corollary of massive campaign expenses, the sponsors to election fund have naturally been placed before the people in the process of post-election decision-making. In the context in which the UPFA government is planning to present a bill to the Parliament to amend the constitution, I think people of this country should be attentive and see if the amendments are actually oriented towards correcting the existing flaws of the present constitution. Is what has now been proposed by the government consistent with what was asked for by the people in this country? What is the resemblance of the government’s proposals to what UPFA leaders promised to the people prior to the last Parliamentary election? How should people react, respond and resist in case of inconsistency and non-resemblance? These are the kind of questions. I intend to address in this article.

Since the late 1980s, there has been a general consensus that the Second Republican Constitution that was enacted in 1978 and the state structure set up by it should be replaced by a new constitution based on a new set of principles. It has also been emphasized that a legal foundation for a new state structure that is radically different from the state structure existed since 1948 should be laid. Prior to the Parliamentary and Presidential elections of 1994, discussions on this subject in different fora took place and new constitutional principles were delineated.  At least two areas of the Second Republican Constitution (SRC) that need significant and far reaching changes were specified immediately after its enactment in 1978. These two areas were (1) the excessive powers of the executive president and the downgrading of the Parliament, and (2) the electoral system based on proportional representation that made representative and represented distant from each other. Subsequently, the constitutional discourse also raised the issue that a highly centralized state structure that emanated from the First and Second Republican Constitutions should be transformed in order to meet the basic needs and the demands for power-sharing of the numerically small nations and other ethnic groups. Hence, the nexus between state restructuring and the establishment of peace, democracy, justice and human rights were widely recognized. The unresolved national question and the violation of human rights in the South in the late 1980s contributed immensely to the emergence of this general consensus. The election manifestos of the two principal candidates at the presidential election in 1994, Gamini Disanayaka of the United National Party (UNP) and Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga of the Peoples’ Alliance (PA) mentioned explicitly that if elected as the President of Sri Lanka, they would introduce a system of devolution of power as a means of resolving the national question and changes to the executive presidential system. Hence, in the early 1990s, the environment for constitutional changes of democratic nature appeared to be favourable and encouraging. However, the situation changed significantly and the favourable environment began to fade away due to multiple reasons. In spite of this situational shift, one may note a development that had positive implication with mixed outcomes, namely, the continuation of the constitutional debate in the form of drafting a new constitution. Although the drafting process contributed in defining basic constitutional principles, it had led to polarization of opinions on constitutional change, particularly on the issue of power-sharing.

Nonetheless, in the Presidential elections in 2005 and 2010, two principal candidates sought mandate of the people to change the SRC by introducing amendments to reduce the powers of the executive president, to change the electoral system and to introduce some kind of power-sharing arrangements. This was what Mahinda Chinthanaya (MC) proposed in 2005 in relation to executive presidency: “I expect to present a constitution that will propose the abolition of the executive presidency” (p. 97). It also proposed as an interim measure to amend the constitution to make president answerable to the Parliament. In addition to above changes, MC aimed at improving people’s rights by amalgamating to the SRC a Bill of Rights. It says: “Steps will be taken to include ‘the Charter of Rights’ into the Constitution based on the Declaration of the United Nations and other international treaties to uphold and protect social, cultural, political, economic and civil rights of all Sri Lankans” (p. 98). In order to get consensus on constitutional reforms, President Rajapaksa convened an all-party meeting and asked All Party Representative Committee to come up with proposals for a new constitution/ or substantial changes to the existing constitution. On the basis of its interim report, he reiterated that his government will take measures to implement fully the 13th Amendment to the Constitution that was violated by all the previous governments. The last Parliament also appointed a select committee to recommend electoral reforms so that flaws of proportional representation system can be corrected.

Table 1: Main Features of Constitutional Reform Discourse, 2005- June 2010

[Editors note: Please click on the images below for larger versions]

Table 1 summarizes the main features of the constitutional discourse in Sri Lanka in the last 5 years. It shows how and to what extent expectations and desires of the people were abused by the politicians in post-election periods. Columns one and two show close resemblance, but column 3 deviated from them substantially and it gives the impression that politicians are more and more concerned about protecting their power rather than satisfying people’s demands and desires. One may argue that there is no consensus on Area 3, namely, power-sharing, although two main parties, the SLFP and the UNP, have accepted the position that some degree of power-sharing is imperative in addressing the issue of numerically small national groups. But the irony is that there is no progress in Area 1, 2, and 3 in spite of the fact since the late 1980s almost all the political parties have been in broad agreement on these three areas of constitutional reforms. This in itself shows one of the basic problems of the Sri Lankan political system, namely, the nature of representation that stems directly from the existing constitutional framework the influence of other factors notwithstanding.

This makes it necessary that people should participate actively in the process of constitution-making and should bring pressure to their representative in the Parliament and reactivate their own organizations. The issue of constitution is a national issue so that it should necessarily transcend party boundaries. Hence, people should ask for open and free vote in the Parliament on the issue of constitution change.

The writer teaches political economy at the University of Peradeniya. E-mail: [email protected]

  • Pearl Thevanayagam

    The PA promised to abolish executive presidency within months of coming to power in 1994. With the LTTE’s unilateral resumption of hostilities on April 19, 1995 as an excuse the issue was put in cold storage.

    The government’s peace proposals offering substantial autonomy to the minority Tamils by way of eight regional councils too were put aside as Sinhala extremists considered these a threat to the unitary state of the island. But what they failed to understand is the central government would still have the power to dissolve the regional councils should there be an armed rebellion or insurrection.

    But at least the fear psychosis which prevailed during the UNP’s 17 years of terror was absent during Chandrika’s time.

    Fast forward to 2004. The reign of state terrorism in the form of extra-judicial killings by the forces and paramilitary groups in `white van’ abductions and murders once more gathered momentum and continues to this very day.

    The present government has no need to make any serious changes to the
    constitution except the obvious one to extend the term of the President and our GL will make any pattern of constitutional dress to suit his master.

    Human rights and constitutional rights f the country’s citizen would have to take a back seat for now, UN probe or no probe.

    All parties have to end and this honeymoon may not lead to a successful marriage but a disastrous end resulting in another much more prolonged war, cold or hot unless it foresees the frustration of its masses. Remember IRA? 300 long years.
    Vasudeva Nanayakkara at the time said that the government had squandered a golden opportunity of ending the war by its knee-jerk response to the LTTE’s resumption of hostilities.

    When Dr Anton Balasingham was agreeing to hold talks while the lTTE waged war Prof. G.L.Peiris, the then Constitutional Affairs Minister dismissed the offer citing it would be unfair for both the armed forces andthe people as a whole especially when the LTTE repeatedly refused opptunties to arrive at a negotiated settlement despite four rounds of peace talks.

    Analists interpreted this at the time as a violation of the constitution and felt that in such circumstances the devolution would cease to have any meaning.

  • Vishnu Gupta

    It does not matter what was promised or what is offered, the people will get what they deserve.

  • Susee

    The entire constitutional history of Sri Lanka, from 1947..1972…1978 teaches us that the discorse on costitutional reform is as like as carrot on a stick!!!

  • Realist

    Dear Pearl,

    Looks like white van abductions and extra judicial killings are occuring, but in the alternate universe you seem to be living in.

    I challenge you to present me evidence of a single white-van abduction since the defeat of the LTTE. I also invite you to provide further evidence linking this to the government.

    Unfortunately, Sarath Fonseka is behind bars, so his merry men can no longer go round wreaking havoc/killing journalists. If someone else is carrying out abductions these days, then they’re doing a good job of covering it up. I hear of the same taking place in the peninsula, and I don’t much doubt that it’s the case, but who exactly is to blame for the condition of the people there?

  • Pearl Thevanayagam

    I am puzzled as to what alternate universe exists unless space scientists prove there is life elsewhere.

    Coming back to earth, white van abductions are conducted by, to be accurate, those paramilitary groups of Douglas Devananda, Pillayan and Karuna. This is proven beyond doubt.

    These Tamils are licensed to kill with the blessings of the government.

    Lasantha was not killed by just anyone. He was murdered under the direct orders of the government. Nobody is disputing this fact.

    In the North and East, th aforesaid militants turned government stooges are carrying on with their scant regard for human rights to do away with anyone who oppose them.

    The LTTE may appear to be a spent force. But these past associates of the LTTE who could not see beyond the LTTE’s vision of a separate homeland for Tamils have now forsaken their ideals for 30 pieces of silver or rather portfolios in the majrity government..

    There are already rumblings that Pillayan is not getting his just dessert.

    Douglas was crucified in the Indian media for his complicity in murders of long ago. This could not have happened without the connivance of the SL govt.

    The govt is sowing the seeds of discontent, a Machiavellian ruse to cast aside these dissenters from the LTTE, to send them into political oblivion.

    Varatharajaperumal got the same treatment.

    The party is over.

  • Realist

    Dear Pearl,

    Your saying “this is proven beyond doubt.” (by who?) and “nobody is disputing this fact” (but it is not a fact, so why should anyone dispute it?), and presenting your opinion as fact does not somehow make this true. This is the same type of writing your old newspaper used to and continues to attempt to propagate in the community, resulting in the pathetic rag it is today, but all I see is them (and you) in a desperate effort to discredit anything and every thing the government does simply because they do not conform to your own twisted logic.

    Once again, just the facts, please.

  • Pearl Thevanayagam

    It is very unfair to discredit the Sunday Leader just because it chose to expose corruption, nepotism and bad governance. When it was launched in 1994 it drew many seasoned journalists.

    True, SL was leaning towards UNP at some point but Lasantha allowed us to criticise the UNP in the same newspaper. It was a joy to write without censorship amidst increasing squeeze on press freedom by the government and of course regular death threats even at the beginning.

    Then journalists like Iqbal Athas, Lakshman Gunasekera and Ruvini Jayasinghe left for better propspects in other media institutions.

    The Sunday Leader was cash-strapped because it was not supported by major businesses or the state as in Lake House newspapers.

    The Sunday Leader as it is today has no seasoned and properly trained journalists apart form veteran journalist Gamini Weerakoon, Van der Pooten and other few guest writers. Hence its rather weak position. Lasantha did try to mould some who are now running the newspaper but then he met with an untimely death.

    Having said that I think we are veering off the subject of the very imformative article Mr Sumanasiri Liyanage has written.

    I believe it would benefit us all if we could comment on his subject rather than go nit-picking on a few words by the commentators.

  • Pearl Thevanayagam

    One more salient point. here in the UK the audience would pay £300.00 upwards to listen to intellectuals and academics who write regularly to Groundviews.

    Just like we let the luscious jak fruits and mangoes to go unpicked we are too laden with intelligentsia that we do not appreciate them.

  • Realist

    No, I think it’s you who is veering off the topic. A spirited defense of the SL does nothing to prove the allegations you yourself have raised. I am not sure what your second comment is in aid of. I myself certainly appreciate the intelligentsia and what this country is capable of- must be why I live in Sri Lanka despite all odds, because I “believe.” Although, sometimes, it becomes a bit stressful to “believe,” when you are constantly hounded by the same old generation that brought us most of the present problems, still lives in the past, and finds things frustrating but does not do anything about it except bloviate online with every method possible to detract attention from the real questions and real solutions.

    So I shall say nothing more, unless the next time you make the kind of comments you’ve been making lately, you consider trying to substantiate them as well.

    Once again, just the facts. Please.

  • Vishnu

    The UN independent inquiry into the Sri Lankan war atrocities has to be initiated soon. Massacre of innocent Tamils and other minorities during the apex of war is the issue at the global platform now.

    In a global democratic platform, killing of innocent citizens of a country by its own government jostles the collective consciousness of world citizens. Relegation of this issue to a level of ignorance never complies with the enshrinement of human rights under the global political body the UN. With proper placement of impartial investigative body of experts in the UN panel to identify the hidden reasons for the suppression of the call for the inquiry and to question the circumstances that caused precipitation of callous atrocities by the Sri Lankan government, the UN expert panel could produce an acceptable report on its findings about the state terrorism committed by the Sri Lankan government on its own minority citizens during the war on terrorism.

    Human life is not dice to play with. If there is anything that demands our respect in our own life, it is the respect we show for the lives of fellow humans irrespective of religion, ethnicity, country of identity, language and other distinctive social strata.

    Human conscience wails for justice.

    The world democratic nations sh0uld give up their hypocrisy of hiding behind self-defacing reasons to ignore this issue any longer. It is high time they mustered a single voice for the proper placement of global voice for the independent and fair UN inquiry into Sri Lankan war crimes.

    The hard core criminals in the Sri Lankan government echelons should be brought before the Independent War Crime Court to face charges.

  • Realist

    VIshnu,

    The UN will have no time to investigate “War Crimes” allegations against the SL govt, if it begins to investigate the group that actually committed war crimes, or provoked the government for 25 years. I fail to see you mention the LTTE in your post, and the list of crimes they committed will not fit in this box, so I’ll just provide you a link with SOME of their crimes against humanity committed while you were sleepwalking:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_attacks_attributed_to_the_LTTE

  • Thileepan

    This is funny. Sumanasiri Liyanage was among the short-sighted Right-wing intellectuals who uncritically supported Rajapakshe Brothers during last few years. Before the previous Elections, there were many Left-wing intellectuals who correctly fore-saw what would happen under the ultra-nationalist, Right-wing and authoritarian Rajapakshe regime. Interestingly, Sumanasiri is now pretending to be a critical intellectual, by half-heartedly criticizing the so called constitutional reforms of Rajapakshe Brothers. Wisdom always comes after the events for hypocritical Pundits who support Rajapakshe Brothers.

  • Pearl Thevanayagam

    But Thileepan, whoever Mr Liyanage supported is beside the point. Take a look at our own Tamil politicians. When times and circumstances change you too change sides and ride the waves.

    However, Mr Liyanage is not commenting. He is stating facts. Surely the gentleman deserves appreciation since he is merely stating facts and in a very transparent manner.

    Why would you find fault with that?

  • justitia

    Today’s news reports the disappearance of two suspects released on bail,in the murder case of Inspecter of Police Douglas Nimal,after attending courts.
    Douglas Nimal and wife were shot dead on April 27 2005 while driving to meet the President of the Polce Inspecters’ Association to file a complaint agaist his treatment while being on remand in a case filed by the police against him for having been associated with drug dealers, but acquitted or instructions by the Attorney General as there was no evidence against him.
    Another report is about Minister Chamal Rajapkse absenting himself from a conference requested by the TNA to discuss the disappearance of 176 persons in the north after the end of the war.
    The fact is that police refuse to record complaints about missing persons in the north and east.

  • Thileepan

    Dear Pearl, the point is not changing sides but interpreting facts in different ways so that the Rajapakshe Brothers are saved from their ‘sins’. The most popular strategy to do this, is to generalize the facts, showing that Rajapakshes are just continueing a trend initiated by previous regimes. This generalization hides the most crucial fact that Rajapakshe Bothers have marked a new era of authoritarinism. If someone like Sumanasiri can easily support bringing these authoritarians into power and, after few months, just say they are doing bad things, it signifies the crisis of the intellectual life in this country and unethical character of intellectuals as well. If you feel these are irrelevant, I am afraid of the kind of politics people like you believe in.

  • niranjan

    Thileepan,

    Sumanasiri Liyanage a right wing intellectual ?

    The Rajapakse regime is not right wing. They are more left oriented. There is crony capitalism by some people belonging to the regime but that does not make the regime a right wing one. The true capitalist party is the UNP. Under Ranil Wickremasinghe this is even more so.

  • Thileepan

    Dear Niranjan, I am so sorry about your poor understanding of capitalism and capitalist state. Your Left-Right dichotomy seems to be defined by popular ideology of Sinhala Left. Rajapakshe regime is Right-wing in terms of neo-liberal economic policies as they are clearly manifested in 2010 Budget, ethno-majoritarianist politics, and backward third-worldism etc. How can pro-Rajapakshe Brother Pundit Sumanasiri Liyanage be Left-wing? I was surprised when you claimed he was Left-wing? Please let me know your theoretical approach, analytical criteria and method of coming into these false conclusions. Let Sumanasiri to have only what he deserve.

  • niranjan

    Thileepan,

    The Rajapakse clan is following crony capitalism. The budget looks like capitalism on paper, but in practise it is crony capitalism where only a few gain and not the majority.
    The regime is not neo-liberal in the sense that Ranil W’s UNP was. The regaining Sri Lanka document was different to the Mahinda Chintanaya. State enterprises were privatised by Ranil’s Government(loss making or not). as an example the UNF allowed foreigners to buy properties in SL without paying taxes.
    The Chinatanaya on the other hand is not looking at privatisation but more state control.
    No SLFP Government has been as right wing as the UNP. This one is no different.

    How can Sumanasiri Liyanage not be left wing is the question. He can be left wing but yet support the Rajapakses can he not. After all the left parties are supporting the regime crony capitalism and all.

  • Thileepan

    Thanks Niranjan for your interesting explanation of capitalism and Left/Right distinction! For me, yours is actually a ‘news paper ideology’ of capitalism, in the sense that it is based on popular ideas of the press other than theoretically sound understanding of concepts. According to this analysis,

    1. ‘crony capitalism’ is more Leftist than neo-liberalism.

    2. The SLFP have been less Right-wing than UNP throughout history.

    3. Sumanasiri’s support to Rajapakshe regime can be justified by the fact that all Left parties do so.

    Neither of the above three arguments is theoretically sound. We will leave Niranjan to prove the first ‘thesis’.

    Scholars like Newton Gunasinghe have paid lots of labor to criticize the over-simplistic understanding that UNP was more capitalist than SLFP (for instance, his emphasis that ‘open economy’ was to emerge in 1975, not in 1977.) If we understand capitalism as historical formations of capital accumulation, it is not difficult to see that the all Sri Lankan governments since 1977 have more or less been identified with neo-liberal reforms, Chandrika alike Premadasa. The surface readers cannot easily identify the fact that Rajapakshe regime has already privatized so many public goods in a very sofisticated manner (for instance, selling public goods like TV telecasting licenses to individuals).

    And also, the politico-ideological characteristics of parties cannot be static but always subjected to political contestations and changes.

    My point is that Mahinda regime cannot be Left-wing. When you claim that UNP is more Right-wing, you are not actually challanging my argument, but reiterating the ‘news-paper definition’ of Left-Right in Sri Lanka.

    Your last argument is very much poor in the sense that it implies that we are allowed to do ‘wrong’ to the extent others do so! My question is how could you conclude that a strong supporter of Rajapakshe Brothers’ regime like Sumanasiri Liyanage is a Leftist. Can you explain this through a concrete analysis of the current political conjuncture, other than just claiming that all Left parties are with MR? And don’t forget that all Sinhala-Buddhist supremacists also are with MR!!!

    Your reply implies that the fans of Sumanasiri Liyanage are in the same level of theoretical relfections and political understandings as him. Sumanasiri also tend to justify his Right-wing political position by over-simplifying radical political theories and analyses. Both of you seem to reiterate the ‘news-paper ideology of the Left’.

  • Pearl Thevanayagam

    Dear Thileepan,

    Why do we call intellectuals think-tanks? It is because they are so enlightened and learned that they are not afraid to adopt advanced thinking from others even if it contradicts their own stance.

    If Mahinda has some valid principles and policies, if am enlightened enough to give him credit I will, notwithstanding his past blunders.

    Those elected to the highest office do come in with good intentions and then soemthing called absolute power takes over.

    This happened with Rohana Wijeweera and Pirabakaran.

    The crossing over of politicians are not just opportunistic. These are committed with well intentions.

    Unfortunately we have a government that does not want to listen to past experience in governance and with the euphoria of having vanquished the LTTE and having never had an equal partership with the ruling classes such as the Bandaranaikes and the Senanayakes they want to make the most of their power bestowed on them to show they too can be part of history.

    The Presdient and his siblings also have selective amnesia about the war and the human rights violations. Now they are stepping on dangerous grounds by appropriating the AG’s office and the judiciary not to mention the constitution.

    It is up to the public not to be blinded by vacuous preomises and look at reality.

    Then the time would come the government would have no option but listen to public opinion and act. Otherwise they too would have shorter shelf-life than they envisaged.

  • Thileepan

    Dear Pearl,

    Intellectuals are called ‘Think Tanks’ within contemporary hegemonic liberal discourse. In the Leftist intellectual tradition there are different concepts like organic intellectuals, committed intellectuals, subaltern intellects etc.

    If you claim that sumanasiri is a part of a certain think-tank, I am fully agreeable.

    The dominant idea of think tank is contemporaneous with American version of neo-liberal capitalism. It is all about profession technocrats who can be hired and paid by any ruling party and big institutions as advocates or so called recourse persons. They are supposed to sell their expertise as a commodity to their consumers, without concerning the latter’s ideological biases and political positions. Sumanasiri has recently published some articles in “Rawaya” News Paper on how to resolve the leadership crisis of UNP. This is a text book example for the functioning of neo-liberal think-tanks.

    The rest of your explanation is very much over-simplistic in the sense that it asks us to understand whole political process in the country as resulted by this or that particular or may be accidental incident. For instance, the Rajapakshe regime’s standpoint on human rights is just understood as something ‘unfortunately bad’, without attempting at exploring why this particular undemocratic characteristic became organic in Rajapakshe’s hegemonic project.

    Here you seem to methodologically follow Sumanasiri Liyanage and Victor Ivon -two big think tank members related to Rajapakshe Brothers. According to them, Rajapakshes are good; and now these good boys are doing some bad things.

  • Pearl Thevanayagam

    Dear Thileepan,

    I strongly suggest you read Water Babies by Charles Kingsley who followed the school of though of Christian Reform. He saw the hippocracies among the learned elite and the ruling classes amidst wide-spread slavery of the poor.

    This is what he has to say about how the doctors diagnosed the professor’s illness.

    “The subanhypaposupernal anastamoses of peritomic diacellurite in the encaphalo digital region of the distinguished individual of whose symptomatic phenomena we had the melancholy honour (subsequently to a preliminary diagnostic inspection) of making an inspectoral diagnosis, presenting the interexclusively quadrilateral antinomian diathesis known as Bumpsterhausen’s blue follicles, we proceeded-”

    This is the scientific description for haemorroids!!

    Those scientists and academics do talk in this gobbledegook because they themselves are still experimenting and not wanting the public to know this confused dilemma and having severed communication with the masses they resort to various complicated names for plain English words.

    If I am being over-simplicstic it is because the writing is there on the wall and there is no need to go into theories of how intellectuals are pigeon-holed.

    If someone is telling you facts and they can prove them that’s all there is to it. On the other hand if it is only opinion then you can comment and analyse.

    You get my drift?

  • Thileepan

    Dear Pearl,

    Thanks for your suggestion though I don’t hope to read that book. And also I don’t even to pretend that I am in a position to suggest my interlocuters that they should read this or that book.

    It is pretty much clear to me that now you are talking about completely irrelevent facts without addressing my main argument.

    Finnally, no mainstream social science tradition in the 21st century believe in ‘pura facts.’ Your distinction between facts and opinions comes from an out-dated intellectual fashion of empiricism. Facts cannot be innocent and science cannot be neutral in the ‘world after deconstruction’.

    Given this background, it is very difficult to go ahead with this debate because we are talking in two different languages; popular news paper language of liberal democracy and theory informed critical language of the Left.

  • niranjan

    Thileepan,

    “Crony Capitalism is more leftist than neo liberalism”.

    Even during Mrs Bandaranaikes Socialist regime in the 1970’s crony capitalism was present. Some people in her cabinet and in her Government resorted to crony capitalism even though they were supposed to be following a leftwing ideology.

    The UNP on the other hand has been following capitalism from the inception of the party. Even Premadasa had social welfare programmes to keep the poor happy, but he followed a capitalist agenda. Ranil W practised neo liberalism when he was PM in the UNF Government. His Government was perhaps the most neo liberal Government that we have had so far. Crony capitalism was there but then it was to be expected in a neo liberal setup.

  • Thileepan

    Dear Niranjan,

    Dear Niranjan,

    You say, ‘socialist regime of Ms. Bandaranaike’, ‘crony capitalism in a socialist regime’, ‘crony capitalism in a neo-liberal set up’ etc. I wonder what do you really mean by capitalism and socialism. How would you distinguish between state welfare policies and socialism? There are lots of misinterpretations of concepts in your comment; hence I do not know how to deal with it, without clarifying these concepts first.

  • niranjan

    Thileepan,

    There is a perception among some business people today that the current regime is following crony capitalism in that only a few are gaining while the majority are not.
    During the UNF period even though there was crony capitalism the people in general were also able to make money. There was a better distribution of wealth.

    One can have state welfare policies targeted at the poor and yet carry on a capitalist system as happened with president Premadasa. There was Janasaviya and a million houses scheme programme. However, there was also foreign investment coming in while some loss making state enterprises were privatised.
    If I am not mistaken some state owned tea plantations were also privatised around that time.

    One can also have full blown socialism(state control) or something close to that with nationalisation of private enterprises(tea plantations, bus companies, coconut estates etc and redistribution of wealth as happened during the Bandaranaike regimes of SWRD and Sirima.

  • wijayapala

    Niranjan,

    If SLFP and UNP both had crony capitalism, then what was the difference between them?